Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Do you think Google Apps is Secure?

In my opinion it is and this is why.

Google’s business would collapse by not securing their customers' data. Like any other business, it’s keen to maintain customer loyalty and to encourage new customers. It doesn’t take much to realise what would happen to Google, if its customer data were compromised.

Google currently maintains the data of over 10 million people. Over a million businesses are using Google Apps. It’s flagship service Adwords, generates millions of dollars in revenue. With these numbers, Google must invest in secure infrastructure to ensure privacy, business continuation, and data recovery.

My understanding is that Google protects its customer data by:

1) Employing security guards at it’s massive data centres

2) Distributing data over a number of servers. In advent of a server failure, your data is still accessible

3) Using technology unfamiliar to hackers. Their servers run on proprietary operating systems thus making it hard for hackers to learn security flaws.

4) Obfuscating your data. That is scrambling it into non-readable format.

From my perspective, unless your business is willing to employ the same measures, it is difficult to argue that your data is more secure in your premises. At reef software, we take the view that this cost in time and money is unjustifiable, and makes sense to us to take advantage of Google’s economies of scale.

ach business is different, and this blog is only an opinion piece. I did, however, did seek some clarification from NSW Society for Computers and the Law. Their helpful reply best sums up how you should approach any cloud computing service like Google Apps.

“Legally, a business (as opposed to an individual) obtaining services that utilised cloud computing would primarily protect itself through appropriate terms the contract for service (eg, terms addressing security, service levels, data recovery, obligations to provide data on request, limits on where the data can be hosted, customer remains the owner of data, liability clauses dealing with misuse of data etc). Practically (as I suspect you may know better than me), all sorts of other considerations such as confidence in the hosted solution provider and their technical environment are highly relevant to the level of protection given to the business.”

In other words, it all depends on the contract and just as importantly, who is providing the service.

For further reading:
Cloud computing more secure than traditional IT, says Google
Forrester: A Close Look At Cloud Computing Security Issues
Can You Trust Google Apps (And Other SaaS)?
Experts urge caution on cloud computing

Monday, June 15, 2009

Google Apps And it Benefits

Consider this quote from Google, describing Google Apps success since it's launch in 2007 -

"Over 1 million businesses with more than 10 million active users in over 100 countries around the world are already taking advantage of Google Apps, and more than 3000 new businesses are signing up every day."

3000 new businesses every day! That's more than a trend, more like a new playing field - the competitive bar is rising. And it's not only small businesses, the French company - Valeo recently moved 30,000 staff over to Google Apps. So, what is Google Apps and why are so many businesses signing up for the service?

Google Apps is a group of web based applications serving two main business functions - messaging and collaboration.

Messaging is serviced by:

  • Gmail(email) - it's spam filter is a killer feature
  • Calendar
  • Instant Messaging
  • Contacts.

Collaboration is serviced by

  • Google Sites - Create and share unlimited number of web sites/portals (the limitation is space - 10GB is available for Premier users, more on Premier later)
  • Google Docs - Create, edit and share documents, spreadsheets, presentations and survey like forms.
  • Google Video - Upload your company related video. Note this is only available in the Premier Edition

Since Google Apps is web based, it means that you only need a web browser to use it. All your data is securely stored and backed up on Google's huge worldwide data centers. This paradigm shift of software being in the cloud - or in layman's terms - off site rather than on your premises - has major benefits including:

  • No need to install software ( other than the web browser which should already be there).
  • Google maintains the software - fixing bugs, adding updates and new features without you having to do it yourself.
  • Email and documents take up alot of hard disk space - all that is handled by Google
  • You can access email, documents, sites, and videos stored in Google Apps, anywhere and anytime there is internet access.
The last benefit is a big one for me. I'm not locked in to a particular computer. It can break down, be stolen or hijacked by my six your old and I can still access my emails either on another machine or via my mobile phone. All these benefits in the end mean one thing - cost savings. Savings on hardware, savings on software maintenance, savings on technical staff. In case, I haven't pushed the point enough - it saves your business money!

Google's pricing is based on a subscription model. Google Apps Premier Edition (it's business version - standard is free) costs only $50 US per user per year. At the time of writing this about $63 AUD. A small business of 5 would pay only $250 US dollars per year or $314 AUD per year at current rates. As it is subscription based, you simply add users when needed. Alternatively, you can take off personnel when they leave and the price is adjusted accordingly. This removes the pain of working out what to budget for.

Google is adding new features all time, the latest being an adapter that allows you to use Microsoft Outlook with your gmail account. As I have mentioned, there is a business version of Google Apps called Google Apps Premier Edition. You can find more information on the links at the end of the blog, but in a nutshell, with the Premier edition you get a whopping 25GB of email space per user and a service level agreement of 99.999% up time, in other words, close to all the time.

All in all the cost benefit analysis looks good and explains why, in my opinion, so many businesses are signing up.

Have a good one.


Reef Software Google Apps Services

Google's Customer Stories

Wikipedia description of Google Apps

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